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What is the true impact of racial slavery in the United States today? Newly available archival sources and new technological methods create unprecedented possibilities for understanding America’s past, especially as it pertains to racial and ethnic groups that have been systematically excluded from traditional social and historical analyses. In 1838, Georgetown College (now University) sold more than 272 enslaved people (the GU272) “down river” to secure its financial health. The Georgetown Slavery Archive is beginning to bring to light, in unprecedented detail, how an entire community was transformed by slavery.
As a national conversation about reparations takes root, the Social Science Research Council and Brooklyn Historical Society gathered a panel of experts to discuss how the legacy of slavery might be confronted and repaired, and to explore one concrete example happening today. What is owed to these descendants, and how has Georgetown made amends?
New York University journalism professor and New York Times contributing writer Rachel Swarns moderated a conversation with Adam Rothman, Georgetown University historian and principal curator of the Georgetown Slavery Archive; Mélisande Short-Colomb, student activist at Georgetown University and descendant of the GU272; and Katherine Franke, author of Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition and Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University.
With support from the Ford Foundation. This program is presented as part of the Social Science Research Council’s Inequality Initiative, a series of programs and projects that bring innovative social science analysis to bear on our understanding of the roots and consequences of unequal participation in political, economic, and social systems across the globe.